Money is dirty.  Though there may be less of it changing hands these days, there are just as many germs going around.  It is for this reason that the Jao Hand Refresher ($11) was invented.  But it is for many other reasons that this ingenious gel is so popular today.

Among Jao Hand Refresher's legion of uses, I've heard that it will zap zits, bust germs at the gym, cool off the under-arm area, and provide an aromatherapy pick-me-up.  Its formula is even safe for the sensitive skin on the face, where it has reportedly been used as an after-shave and an astringent.  The name is clearly misleading - this "hand refresher" works wonders on the whole body.

Most sanitizers use a synthetic antibacterial agent called triclosan, which is controversial for its damaging effects on marine life and its peculiar tendency to spawn resistant bacteria. Jao Hand Refresher sticks with good old-fashioned ethyl alcohol to disinfect without leaving a residue that might generate microbial resistance.  To prevent drying, the formula draws on a blend of essential oils including eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, sage, and tea tree.

Though the initial squirt smells strongly of alcohol, the gel then seems to transform into an herbal potion, leaving a lovely lavender aroma as it dissolves on the skin.  Unlike every other commercial antibacterial product I've used, this one didn't make me want to rub my hands on a towel to get rid of a yucky, wet residue or an overpowering, sickly scent.  Ethyl alcohol tends to be less drying, but I nonetheless felt an urge to moisturize my hands soon after "refreshing" them.

The back-story of Jao is a charming tale of a father-daughter team who built a business around the concept of cleaning hands on-the-go.  On the market since 1997, their gelled alcohol stands out from other hand sanitizers because it was being developed independently long before the competitors were released.  Jao's unique approach to disinfecting and its dedication to natural ingredients gets two (clean) thumbs-up.


Ethyl alcohol, water, aloe, glycerine, glyceryl polyacrylate, panthenol carbomer, aminomethyl propanol, PPG-20, methyl glucose ether, chamomile and calendula extracts, oils of lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, geranium, clary sage

The Skinny: Free of artificial fragrances and petrochemicals, the formula is a basic mix of alcohol with gelling (carbomer and aminomethyl propanol) and lubricating (glyceryl polyacrylate) agents. Essential oils augment the recipe and surpass run-of-the-mill sanitizers.